Wednesday, May 29, 2024

All Things to All Men (1 Corinthians 9:19-23)

"For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all" (1 Cor. 9:19).

Though free from all men, under no obligation to conform his conduct to their opinions, Paul chose to serve all men. His motive in doing this was always for the sake of winning the lost, for the sake of the propagation of the Gospel. “No one was more yielding in matters of indifference, no one was more unyielding in matters of principle than this apostle,” Hodge wrote. “So long as things indifferent were regarded as such, he was ready to accommodate himself to the most unreasonable prejudices; but when they were insisted upon as matters of necessity, he would not give place, no not for an hour, Gal. 2:5.”

Notice that Paul became all things to all men only in those things that were indifferent. He never compromised the doctrines of Christ, never watered them down, never sinned against the dictates of God’s law or his conscience for the sake of evangelism. But he did take great pains in those matters of indifference to win others to Christ. It is necessary to stress this point because many have abused this passage to allow for all kinds of ungodliness and for the neglect of proclaiming the full counsel of God. Paul’s duty was to God first, but when it came to his duty before men, he always put others first.

When he said he became a Jew to the Jews, this means that he conformed to their ceremonial laws, to their regulations, to their restrictions. It must be emphasized that he never conceded that these things were a moral obligation. He simply conformed to them so no one would be prejudiced against the Gospel. When in Jerusalem, he would conform to the Jewish laws, but when in Antioch and other cities, he refused to obey the Jewish laws (such as circumcision). He even rebuked Peter in Galatians 2:11–21 for acting like a Jew among the Gentiles instead of being “all things to all men.”

Paul also became “weak” so he might gain the “weak.” This ties into what he had already discussed about those with a weak conscience. He accommodated himself to the prejudices of weak Christians so that he might win them over to deeper knowledge, all for the Gospel’s sake. He lived for it, and he gave up his liberties for it. May each of us follow his example and be “all things to all men.”

In what way did Paul emulate Christ in his attitude of serving others? What did Christ give up for the sake of your redemption? What rights and liberties did He lay aside so you might be reconciled to God? Meditate on Philippians 2:1–18 today. Pray that you, like Paul, will be conformed yet more to the image of Christ.